January 3, 2011

It’s Coming

Here it Comes!

© 2011 Gilles Martin-Raget BMW Oracle Racing

It took until well into the latter half of the December 31 deadline day, but Oracle Racing and the America’s Cup Event Authority finally announced that the 34th America’s Cup will be contested on the Bay. Ending what has become its own "season of torture" for Bay Area sailors, the announcement was the best New Year’s present we could have hoped for. As so frequently has been extolled by proponents of a Bay Area Cup, the decision appears driven by the utility of the Bay for the purpose at hand.

“We sought a venue that fulfills our promise – to showcase the best sailors in the world competing on the fastest boats,” said America’s Cup Event Authority Chairman Richard Worth. “And hosting the America’s Cup in San Francisco will realize that promise.“

When you hear morning radio DJs talking about it on the air as we did this morning, you get an idea of what kind of impact the event is already having in reaching out to the mainstream audience that sailing needs in order to raise its commercial profile in this country. With the Bay as the venue, the best is yet to come in that effort.

“My support for San Francisco hosting the America’s Cup goes beyond the opportunity to see our team competing on home waters,” said the man pulling the strings for the 34th Cup, Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts. “We are excited to sail for our sport’s greatest trophy, on a stretch of water legendary among sailors worldwide.”

So what’s next? Quite a bit actually. All the time the team spent trying to revive the possibility of Newport as a venue was time not spent starting the CEQA process. Hopefully that effort will proceed quickly so that construction can begin on the Race Village located on Piers 19 and 29, and the team bases at around Pier 30/32 — all of which will be accessible to the public. Later this summer, the Cup teams will start racing the America’s Cup World Series in the wing-sailed AC45s all while Bay Area sailors start looking toward how to maximize the opportunity the Cup brings. What will the Cup mean for you?

Aussie Floods Wreck Dozens of Boats

Here on the West Coast of the U.S. we’re slowly drying out after enduring a string of heavy rain storms. But the clean-up process here is nothing compared to what residents of Bundaberg, Australia face. Recent storms there caused the worst flooding in at least 40 years. Rapidly rising waters completely inundated some homes and set loose dozens of moored boats.

In the aftermath of severe flooding throughout northern Queensland, hundreds of people were rescued from affected homes, while dozens of boats drifted to their doom.

© AP

Local sources estimate that at least 70 boats — mostly those moored in the Burnett River near the town center — were set adrift by the fast-moving flood waters. Many were smashed to pieces against seawalls, while other simply drifted out to sea. A number of liveaboards were reportedly stranded aboard for days, but received emergency food and water from police. However, the Bundaberg Port Marina, where many international cruisers berth, was largely unaffected. 

Bundaberg’s commercial port has been closed due to the heavy wind and rain. Authorities say it cannot be reopened until a hydrographic survey is completed. The city, which lies roughly 160 nm north of Brisbane, is a favorite stopover for cruisers traveling along the coast of Queensland.

Sailors’ Bodies Recovered

On December 25, two weeks after falling off his Island Packet Kachina, the body of Casey Speed, 28, was recovered. As reported previously, Speed and his wife Lucinda — who were tenants at Sausalito Yacht Harbor — were anchored in Richardson Bay when the reportedly intoxicated Speed fell overboard. A seven-hour, multi-agency search proved fruitless. His body was spotted in the Strawberry wetlands by a local birdwatcher near sunset on Christmas Day. According to the Marin County Coroner, Speed died of drowning.

Just two days later in Santa Cruz, the body of Roy Wittrup, 64, was found floating in Santa Cruz Harbor near his Ericson 32. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Wittrup, who lived aboard his boat for part of the year, was last seen at a local bar. The Santa Cruz County Coroner found he’d also died of drowning.

There’s no way to determine if alcohol played a role in either death, but these sailors’ tragic passings are grim reminders to always be careful near the water.

A New Dawn for a New Year

We awoke on Profligate a little after 6 a.m. this morning, just as we do each morning, to check out the impending rising of the sun. Down here at the lagoon at Barra de Navidad on Mexico’s Gold Coast, located at latitude 19, it’s a most relaxing Zen time of day. It’s already 70 degrees, the waters of the lagoon are mirror smooth, and you can faintly hear the soft pounding of the surf on the sand a mile or so to the west.

The dawn of a new day of a new year in tropical Mexico, where the people are sooooo nice.

latitude/Richard
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

But this time of day is primarily a visual treat. About 11 o’clock high in the still-dark southeastern sky is the brilliant planet Venus. The mythological morning and evening star heralds the evolving — it will take almost an hour before Sol actually makes an appearance — sunrise, with all its soft yellows, oranges and blues. The changing of the sunrise colors is yet another reminder that life is all about change.

Cruising, of course, is even more about change than is life. The essence of cruising is making great friends, and shortly thereafter saying goodbye to them — in many cases forever. Today is a day of change on Profligate as our ‘two kids’, Dustin and Lavonne (aka the ‘new George’), will be moving ashore at Barra, hoping to soon find berths to either Panama or the South Pacific. Profligate, on the other hand, will begin slowly heading back north to Banderas Bay.

Dustin’s self-portrait while atop Profligate’s mast 90 feet above the Barra lagoon. Originally from Santa Cruz, but most recently from Florida, Dustin’s a young man of many talents. While he’s had more experience on big motor vessels, he sailed in the Ha-Ha and did a great job of driving Profligate on the spinny run from Barra to Manzanillo, ringing up the top speed of 15.3 knots. Dustin can be reached at dhaus111@gmail.com.

Dustin
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Dustin has been on the big cat since early November in Cabo, doing a great job of everything that was asked of him. Lavonne joined just a couple of weeks ago, but has been a real treat, too. Both come with gold stars from the Wanderer. In fact, our pleasant experience with Dustin, Lavonne, and George, one of the original ‘kids’ who returned to California a few weeks ago, has resulted in our becoming far more open to welcoming more 20-somethings on Profligate in the future.

Lavonne is an adventurous, fun-loving, well-traveled and super-fit young lady from the Carolinas who has worked professionally on large motoryachts and as a dive master for a year in Thailand. And if you think the fun pose means she’s desperate for a berth or a guy, you’re a complete idiot. Lavonne can be reached at lavonnebrown82@hotmail.com.

Dustin
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Anyway, we hope the new dawn of a new year heralds nothing but good for each and all of you. And for the wonderful, wonderful majority of the people of Mexico, who on the one hand are suffering from the narco battles in certain areas of the country, as well as suffering from an ignorant U.S. press, which seems incapable of comprehending that Juarez is about 1,000 times farther from the Pacific Coast of Mexico than the Bayview is from San Francisco’s Pacific Heights or Sea Cliff. Oddly enough, for all Mexico’s problems, there seems to be a greater sense of optimism about the future down here, perhaps because their expectations are so much more modest than those of Americans.

In any event, we wish each and every one of you a happy new year, and the ability to remember that the important things in life aren’t things.

Mia II was a beautifully maintained all-teak work of art. latitude/LaDonna
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC We can think of few worse ways to end 2010 than to lose your boat.